Ancient crown to be returned to Turkey in out-of-court settlement

Posted on: December 12, 2017 by

A golden crown dating from the fourth-century BC will be returned to Turkey following an out-of-court settlement between a Turkish national residing in Scotland and the Government of Turkey.

The crown, reported to have been valued at £250,000, was in the possession of Edinburgh café owner Murat Aksakalli, who claimed to have inherited it from his grandfather.

In a somewhat convoluted and long-running saga which has been going on since at least 2010, it has been alleged that the crown had in fact been removed from a heritage site, the Hecatomnus Tomb in Milas, during illegal excavations. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Turkish authorities sought to rely on Article 5 of the Turkish Law on Protection of Cultural and Natural Property, advising that, as a matter of Turkish law, ancient cultural artefacts are owned by the State and cannot be lawfully owned by individuals.

The assertion was made in a report provided to Scotland’s prosecution service in connection with the arrest of Askakalli in December 2010. Ultimately, no criminal proceedings were brought against him and in 2012, it was ordered that the crown be returned to him.  In 2013, the matter was referred to the Court of Sessions, which held Aksakalli was unable to prove ownership and the crown was once again seized and taken to Turkey for forensic examination.

In a further twist in the tale in December 2016, Aksakalli sought to have the crown released by the police so that it could be examined by an independent expert, but a judge at the Court of Session, taking into account the concerns of Turkish authorities about the item’s security, told him that further information would have to be provided before forensic soil analysis could be carried out.

Finally, on the 5th December 2017, when the ownership dispute was due to be brought before the court once again, the parties settled. Although the details of this settlement are unknown, it appears that Aksakalli has agreed to return the artefact to Turkey.

This case, once again, demonstrates the robust approach the Turkish authorities take to reclaiming antiquities that have left Turkish shores. This was something brought to the attention of listeners to BBC Radio 4 recently when IAL’s Alex Herman was interviewed in connection with the detention of a UK man for removing thirteen coins from Turkey.